Advertisement

Geneticist sentenced in art case

A geneticist was sentenced to one year of unsupervised release (no jail time) and a $500 fine for supplying bacteria to an artist, linkurl:according to;http://www.buffalonews.com/258/story/273792.html the Buffalo News, bringing to an end a well-publicized case that began more than three years ago. Robert Ferrell, based at the University of Pittsburgh, linkurl:pled guilty in October;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53702/ to a misdemeanor, after he supplied Steven Kurtz with bacteria fo

By | February 11, 2008

A geneticist was sentenced to one year of unsupervised release (no jail time) and a $500 fine for supplying bacteria to an artist, linkurl:according to;http://www.buffalonews.com/258/story/273792.html the Buffalo News, bringing to an end a well-publicized case that began more than three years ago. Robert Ferrell, based at the University of Pittsburgh, linkurl:pled guilty in October;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53702/ to a misdemeanor, after he supplied Steven Kurtz with bacteria for use in biotechnology art projects. The men were originally charged with mail and wire fraud in connection with Ferrell's purchase of samples of two common bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Bacillus atrophaeus, for Kurtz. Ferrell and Kurtz were indicted in June, 2004. Over the course of the trial, Ferrell and Kurtz accumulated support from several organizations, including the American Association of University Professors and the American Civil Liberties Union, along with medical researchers. The indictment "is just part of the 'select agent' hysteria," C.J. Peters, a professor and bioterror researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, linkurl:told us;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22235/ in June, 2004. "Making common organisms sound as though they should be under lock and key is very confusing to law enforcement and the public." "I am dismayed by what appears to me to be yet one more instance in which knowledgeable persons in the field of bioterrorism are not being brought in and consulted to ascertain what might be real problems and what are purely spurious problems," D.A. Henderson, senior advisor of Pitt's Center for Biosecurity, linkurl:said;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22260/ after Ferrell and Kurtz were indicted.
Advertisement

Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 4

February 12, 2008

Utter insanity. Unfortunately, it seems that in the States once the indictment machine starts rolling somebody has to save face through some type of convictment
Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

February 12, 2008

The Thomas Butler case was the same thing. Once a lot of resources are put into an investigation, it is important for the careers of the officials that made the decision to commit resource to not get a black eye. If they get a conviction on a big case, that is a gold star on their record and helps them advance. Bu even more importantly, if they lose, that is 10 black marks for them to make up. (At least.) \n\nScientists in general are extremely naive about law enforcement and believe that if they cooperate they will be seen as good guys and left alone. For minor things that don't result in more than a little time for one person, that is often true. However, if more than one person shows up, or the case gets airplay, or it has a juicy "angle" then cops and prosecutors see scientists as soft targets. So of course they go for a relatively easy win to get promotions. \n\nPolice and prosecutors are no better than anybody else. Think of this as a grant competition submission by law enforcement - that's pretty close. What will academics do to get a grant and gain tenure? Those doing the investigation and prosecution of a high profile case are thinking rather like that. They have one goal, and you are in the path of their career goal. \n\nSo, anyone in this situation, the word is, say nothing. Get a good CRIMINAL attorney immediately! Do it before an investigation gets underway. Get a lawyer that will challenge and fight before anything is really rolling. That will signal to the prosecutors that this won't be an easy case. They'll prefer greener pastures. Spend the money on it that it needs. Prevention like that will cost $10,000 to $25,000. But do it. Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish. \n\nAlso, don't believe a word that the legal department of your university or institution says. Those lawyers have a duty ONLY to the university. It is malpractice for them to care about you in any way that works against the party they represent. So never forget that they have a duty to NOT inform you of anything that could help you if it might not be in the best interest of their party. \n\nSo get your own attorney. NEVER say a word to the university's people without your own attorney present and advising you. \n\nIt will save your career and years of heartache and jail time. This isn't the movies. It isn't "Law and Order" with it's neat little plotlines.

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
NuAire
NuAire
Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist